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It’s A Beautiful Noise

Before the manager had to deliver the news that something “major [1]” had happened to his indispensable player’s hamstring…before a backup catcher presumably said a prayer that nothing be hit to him in his unforeseen debut as a third baseman…before baseballs brushed back batters hither and yon…before replays weren’t reviewed even though it sure as hell seemed like they were…before one piece of lumber in particular wasn’t interfered with even though the one person who mattered sure as hell seemed to think it was…before old nemeses, old friends and new dimensions launched five horsehide spheres bearing the new commissioner’s signature over pulled-in fences…before the man for whom the Night was named and a Dark Knight is namesaked could be alternately heroic, breathtaking and just plain plucky…before the Mets could make certain their six runs would withstand the five compiled by the Phillies…

Before all that, there was the noise. The noise of Citi Field. It’s the ballpark’s newest feature of all.

The Mets win [2] in imperfect fashion. They likely lose David Wright [3] for an undetermined period of time because the Captain slid awkwardly in stealing a base that he probably wishes he had left unpilfered. They find Matt Harvey [4]’s comeback trail from Tommy John [5] surgery might not be an uninterrupted march to Lower Broadway. They discover the Phillies may be dead, but there’s still no known cure for Chase Utley [6]. They make nailbiters out of prospective romps. They burn through a short bench and reveal a startling lack of depth. They get by without their bantam rooster of a fearless leader who is never more popular than when he is being banished into the shadows by a numbskull umpire. They send you to your car or your train or whatever mode of transportation you chose wondering what the hell just happened.

But the uncertainty they tend to bring to bear couldn’t quiet the noise, at least not in my mind.

I want to say I went to Citi Field and Shea Stadium broke out, but that wouldn’t be wholly accurate. I’m not sure I ever heard Shea Stadium so determined to make polite conversation impossible. Oh, it was louder at Shea Stadium when the occasion warranted it. There were lots of occasions [7] that warranted it. At Citi Field, there’s been mostly nothing to rev up the volume over. It’s been too quiet for six seasons.

At the outset of the second game of its seventh season, its inhabitants decided to change that. Why? Ostensibly because Matt Harvey was continuing his cinematic return — he cooperated with the preferred narrative, if not as neatly as he had the week before in Washington — but mostly, I suspect, because they could. Mets fans going to a Mets game decided they’d kept mum for too goddamn long.

So out came the sound that had been missing since Shea. We’re here, we cheer, get used to it.

I was happily perched behind home plate in the first row of Excelsior for my 2015 onsite debut, delighted to join my dear friends in the Spector family, and I heard things I had heard hardly at all through the Citi Field years. I heard “HARVEY! HARVEY!” I heard “LET’S GO HARVEY!” I heard “LET’S GO METS!” with no cue whatsoever from the 62%-larger scoreboard. I heard a general, recurring loudness that urged on nothing more than the idea of loudness for loudness’s potent sake. These were Mets fans — legitimately more than 35,000 of them, if not quite the almost 40,000 listed as the paid attendance — being Mets fans, tired of being something less. These were Mets fans buying into not only Harveysteria’s reboot and their team’s very recent winning ways but buying into themselves. If they’re gonna take back New York [8], they seemed to have figured out as one that they first need to take back Citi Field.

Not from the Phillies, but from inertia. The joint refused to jump for six years. It barely budged. Compared to its predecessor (and judging by the unsolicited opinion some dude offered me on the inbound 7, the comparisons won’t go away until there’s a September that supercedes the sadly established norm of the first half of the 2010s [9]), Citi Field suffers from rigor mortis.

Or it did until Harvey took the mound and struck out his first, second and fourth hitters and the Mets, on Lucas Duda [10]’s stinging three-run double, eventually took a lead that was continually challenged yet never overcome. The Phillies threw everything they had at Harvey, which is to say Utley and some dim officiating. Harvey lasted six innings. His eight strikeouts and zero walks were the stuff of a second win on the season. His determination to let one slip just enough to let Chase know he wasn’t dealing with a soft touch, though, became his UPS Delivery of the Game (I’m assuming some corporate entity sponsors something like that).

Benches were warned? So was the National League.

Phillies starter David Buchanan [11], who entered with an ERA as high as Pennsylvania native James Buchanan’s ranking as a president is low, had plunked, accidentally or otherwise, Wilmer Flores [12] and Michael Cuddyer [13]. Cuddyer had to leave the game. Citi Field didn’t care for that. It already didn’t care for Utley, who — besides reminding us he was Adam LaRoche [14] before shuddering at the sight of Adam LaRoche was cool — dared to ruin Harvey’s perfect game with two out in the first.

Yeah, we were getting ahead of ourselves, but what’s the fun of having a Matt Harvey if you’re not convinced that he’s going to retire every Phillie from here to Granny Hamner [15]? And if the Dark Knight is compelled to put an opponent on base, why waste four intentional balls when one pitched purposefully at a certifiable demon can do the trick so much more efficiently?

That’s what Harvey did in the fifth when Buchanan, who had the nerve to double, was on third; there were two out; and Ryan Howard [16] (one of the few troubled American financial institutions the government didn’t bother deeming too big to fail) was on deck. Whoops! Pitch musta got away [17]…just like Buchanan’s did when he’d hit Flores and Cuddyer. Hitting Utley removed the threat of Utley hitting and it told Utley’s pitchers, you hit two of ours, we’ll hit essentially the only one you got.

Citi Field liked that and made plenty of noise.

Citi Field was less appreciative of the BS catcher’s interference call that followed as Howard got in the way of Travis d’Arnaud’s attempt to throw Utley out on a stolen base attempt. Collins came out to argue with Alfonso Marquez, having gained no satisfaction earlier when he requested a replay review after Harvey was ruled to have hit Freddy Galvis [18] despite pretty clearly not hitting Freddy Galvis. It took five minutes for the umpires to review the situation [19] and tell Terry, no, you can’t have a review.

First that, now this. Howard was on first. Collins was ejected and then, as the saying goes, got his money’s worth, which was pretty cool to witness since replay review has kind of killed that tradition. Citi Field was very supportive of the manager and his actions at that moment. I suspect more than half of the 35,000-plus would gladly usher Collins to a waiting cab out of general restlessness, but we do love when our skippers stand up for our interests. Add “TERRY! TERRY!” to the chants of the evening.

Meanwhile, Harvey waited to resume pitching. As he involuntarily cooled his heels, I wondered how many heads off of how many live animals he would’ve bitten off if given the option, but the man has composure along with several out pitches. With the bases now loaded and Bob Geren [20] his temporary manager, Matt popped Carlos Ruiz [21] — the last remaining Phillie position player anybody outside the Delaware Valley could guess is currently a Phillie — to third, where Wright caught it to end the threat.

How comforting to have Wright out there. Little could Citi Field imagine it would see David voluntarily leave the game during a prospective eighth-inning rally because he felt something. As Collins implied later, that’s a guy who only comes out if an appendix bursts…and then the Captain would probably tell Ray Ramirez to spray some Bactine on it. By then, the 4-3 lead he’d helped protect had grown to 5-3 when Duda proved the niftiest of baserunners, sliding home safely on a d’Arnaud single and then lunging to touch the plate a second time when Marquez was initially too busy updating his Facebook status (“At the Mets-Phillies game, y’all! Umpiring is hard! LOL!”) to make a call. It blossomed to 6-3 when Daniel Murphy [22] became the fourth Met to homer in 2015’s first eight games. But then it shrunk to 6-4 as Utley wreaked more of his home run havoc on Sean Gilmartin [23], a reliever whose performance would have pleased neither Gil Hodges [24] nor Billy Martin [25].

After David left the game and Recker became his pinch-running and defensive substitute — the Mets’ teeny-tiny four-man bench had plumb run out of players — the extant spirit of weird-ass Met-Phillie games past [26], Jeff Francoeur [27], came up and homered to make it 6-5 in the ninth. Frenchy’s a Phillie now if you hadn’t been keeping up on his whereabouts. The fellow who in Citi Field’s first campaign lined into that year’s Mets-in-a-microcosm offensive escapade, Eric Bruntlett [28]’s notorious Unassisted Triple Play. It was to 2009 Met rallies what Luis Castillo [29]’s one hand clapping [30] was to 2009 Met lockdown ninth innings.

Good times.

What was supposed to be Harvey Night and nothing but Harvey Night had subtly shifted to hang on for who knows what’s going to happen next, with Anthony Recker [31] as your third baseman, Chase Utley in the on-deck circle and Jeurys Familia [32] morphing from trusted setup man to Not Another Mets Closer. But then Familia struck out Galvis and the Mets of this year edged the Phillies of some other year but definitely not this one.

At which juncture Citi Field made more beautiful noise. It’s apparently what we do there now.